We've been using Google Apps at the University of Minnesota for about 2 years now. On occasion, I like to share "tips & tricks" for getting the most of Google Apps. Earlier in the Fall, Pam & I held several campus sessions about Gmail filters, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. But Google Apps can do more than that.
Did you know that Google supports free voice & video chat? It's right there in your Gmail. Look for "Chat" in the left-hand corner of Gmail, below your list of labels/folders. You should see a list of names there - these are contacts who are available for chat. If you see a "video" icon, that means the person has a webcam and is available for a video chat.
To start a chat, just click on the person's name. By default, you can start a text chat, which is sort of like AOL's chat messenger. But I find it's more interesting to start a voice chat, or a video chat. You can start a voice chat by clicking the "phone" icon, or a video chat by clicking on the "video" icon, or a text chat by typing in the box.
To start using voice chat, you'll need a microphone and speakers connected to your computer. Most computers come with these, but some desktop PCs will require a separate microphone. To do video chat, you'll also need a webcam connected to your computer. However, video chat is optional - although I find video does make the conversation more personal.
You will also need to install a small driver from Google, which communicates between your computer and Google's voice & video chat service. It's easy to set up on your own! You'll be prompted to download and install this, the first time you try to make a call. Go ahead and give it a try! Call the Helpdesk if you need help.
That's it! Voice & video chat is a great way to connect with others who are also using Gmail. They don't have to be at Morris, or even part of the University. You can start a chat with anyone who has a Gmail (gmail.com) email address. And it's free!
I find voice & video chat invaluable for conversations with folks at the Twin Cities campus. What a great way to save on long-distance bills! And with a webcam on both end, video chat is the next best thing to being there.